World No. 1 Ash Barty said she will probably not return home to Australia until after the conclusion of the 2021 season because of quarantine requirements in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Barty, speaking after she cruised into the last 16 at the Miami Open with a 6-3 6-2 win over Jelena Ostapenko, said the time needed to quarantine on either end of a journey to Australia would be too much of a challenge.
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“Obviously with the quarantine laws in Australia, we do our two weeks’ quarantine in a hotel, and there is actually not a lot of space in the season to be able to do that just to get home for the two weeks,” said Barty.
“So at this stage we’re planning to be away until after the US Open and potentially right to the end of season.”
While Barty is no stranger to long periods away from home, she admitted settling into a stretch that could last until November if the entire season goes ahead, is taking some getting used to.
“Without a doubt it was something that was new to me, new to try and wrap my head around and comprehend where we’re going to be away for such an extended period,” said Barty, who is the defending Miami Open champion as last year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Of course there were tears the days leading up (to leaving Australia). There were tears when I did finally leave, and then when we left. Then we were delayed and had to leave again. It was all kind of happening,” she said.
Barty was denied on five set-point chances in the final game of the first set against Ostapenko before claiming it on a service winner after 37 minutes.
The Barty Party is still going.Source:AFP
Former French Open champion Ostapenko broke Barty for a 2-0 lead to start the second set, then surrendered the final six games, Barty looking much more impressive than she did in her three-set battle to subdue Kristina Kucova in her opening match.
“I was a lot sharper today,” Barty said. “I felt like today was a lot cleaner. I felt like I really needed to be ready from the first ball.”
Up next for the top seed in Miami will be a clash with either Angelique Kerber or Victoria Azarenka.
What Barty must do to remain No. 1
There has been plenty of conjecture about Barty’s status as the world No. 1 after the rankings were frozen when COVID-19 hit, in a move that made sure players who missed tournaments during the pandemic weren’t punished.
The Queenslander didn’t play for the final 10 months of 2020, then returned to the court at the start of this year. She won the Yarra Valley Classic, lost in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open then was knocked out in the opening round of the Adelaide International.
Through it all she has retained her top spot, and Barty can ensure she stays there by making the final in Miami.
Reaching the decider would prevent reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka from overthrowing Barty. If the 24-year-old loses before the semi-finals, then Osaka can become No. 1 by reaching the final.
If Barty makes it to the semi-finals but loses, Osaka must win the Miami tournament to take the crown.
With Reuters, AFP
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